Foodies everywhere rejoice! Top Chef returns tonight at 10/9c! For the 11th season of the show, we’re taking New Orleans by storm—and there are many reasons you can't miss it. Sixteen reasons, to be exact. There are over-the-top Cheftestants (hot ones, too!), amazing NOLA-centric cuisine, our blue ribbon panel of judges, and much more. Let's get started:
1. The Star Is New Orleans!
Take it from Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi, who recently gushed that "out of any city, even New York, [New Orleans] is the only [place] in the United States that truly has its own micro-culture of food."
2. Everybody Loves Emeril
Emeril Lagasse is obviously no stranger to New Orleans cuisine, and he'll bring a local's perspective to this season. "I kid with people and tell them that there are 49 states," he says. "And then there’s Louisiana."
3. Egos Abound
This is a talented bunch of chefs, so it's no surprise that there are quite a few egos in the kitchen. Even Cheftestant Jason Cichonski admits that he knows "there are a lot of people who have the first impression that I’m a douche bag."
4. Local Chefs Are Repping Big Time
Padma’s Picks fans will recognize two NOLA-based chefs this season: Justin Devillier, chef at La Petite Grocery, and Michael Sichel, chef at Galatoire’s Restaurant. These chefs were hand selected by Padma to represent New Orleans. So will they have an advantage this season? Like we'd tell you!
5. There’s International Flair
From Mexico to St. Lucia to Australia, our chefs hail from around the country, and around the world. Which leads us to our next point…
6. The Chefs Are Hot
And we’re not just talking about their food. This season definitely has some cuties, including one contestant who was voted "Philly’s Sexiest Chef." Take a look for yourself.
7. The Awkward Introductions Are Awesome
It's a rite of passage each season for cheftestants to endure the ritual introductions when they first arrive at the Top Chef house. And it's delightfully awkward to watch everyone size each other up, and tout their culinary accomplishments. We're looking at you, Carlos Gaytan—and your Michelin star.
8. The House Is Stunning
In addition to its awesome food, New Orleans also boasts iconic architecture, and this season, the chefs will be sleeping in style in an amazing French-Quarter-style house.
9. Gators Abound!
The first challenge of the season sees the chefs cooking with three classic New Orleans ingredients: alligator, turtle and frogs legs. If that doesn’t scream NOLA, we don't know what does.
10. Curtis Stone Is a Guest Judge
Our favorite Aussie and Top Chef Masters host guest judges on tonight’s episode. We're keeping it in the family!
11. Judges Table Gets a Twist
There's one major overhaul happening with Judges Table this season—and it has the potential to pit the Cheftestants against each other in some explosive ways. That's all we'll give away for now.
12. Play Live Is Coming to Top Chef
In another new twist, viewers will now be able to interact with the show in real time through Bravo’s Play Live technology. Disagree with the judges’ decision? Want to voice your opinion about one of the challenges? With Play Live, you’ll be able to weigh in as the show progresses—and see the results in real time. To play, just point your browser to our Play Live site or connect using the Bravo Now app.
13. Last Chance Kitchen Returns
Last Chance Kitchen gives eliminated chefs a chance to fight their way back into the on-air competition for a chance at the Top Chef title. You may remember Season 10 winner Kristen Kish’s road to redemption last year. It was all made possible by Last Chance Kitchen, and we’re excited to announce that it's returning this season!
14. Foodies Can Get Involved More than Ever
With Top Chef Home Edition, this digital and social extension of the series is an innovative, fun and educational way to help foodies of all levels expand their skill sets and repertoires. The multi-tier experience spreads across various platforms (Facebook, Vine and Instagram) and includes quizzes, recipe challenges and more.
15. Zeebox Delivers Bonus Footage
Top Chef superfans can delve even deeper with Zeebox, a second-screen app which offers exclusive behind-the-scenes content for fans live during the show.
16. Bryan Voltaggio Is Coming Back, Too!
Still craving more Top Chef? Bryan Voltaggio has you covered! The alum returns in Season 11 to host the web series "Bryan Voltaggio Takes on New Orleans," in which he recreates some of his favorite Top Chef dishes, but with a New Orleans spin.
Will you be watching the premiere of Top Chef tonight? What aspect of the show are you most looking forward to? Watch a preview and tell us in the comments. Bon Appetit!